Webster’s describes a butterfly as “any of numerous slender-bodied diurnal insects (order Lepidoptea) with broad, often brightly colored wings.” This imagery of beauty and grace is also applicable to Bob Lind’s most famous composition, “Elusive Butterfly,” reaching #5 on March 12, 1966, a few short days before the burst of spring. While post-“Butterfly” single success proved as fleeting as the sightings of those winged beauties, Lind embarked on an unorthodox journey that found him making the transition from the recording studio to the printed word. Lind will describe some of the stops along the way when he joins another journeyman folksinger, Danny O’Keefe (“Good Time Charlie’s Got the Blues”), for an AMSD concert in Normal Heights over the Memorial Day weekend.
He was born during the World War II years on November 25, 1942. Only five when his parents terminated their marriage, Lind spent his childhood as an Air Force brat after his mother remarried, this time to a master sergeant. The family lived the on-the-move lifestyle known all too well by military families and finally settled in Denver. Lind bypassed the “golden record” market targeted for little tykes and recalled being drawn to adult singers from the very beginning. When the early rock and roll barnstorm tours came to Denver, Lind attended the shows and saw many rhythm and blues greats. He has fond memories; “Back when I was first hearing it, it was dangerous,” Lind told Los Angeles music historian Art Fein. “It was alive; it rippled with sexual energy. Black people were playing and white people were listening and it was so dangerous!”
Lind’s enrollment at Western State College at Gunnison, Colorado coincided with the folk music boom. He abandoned his theater arts major, strapped on a guitar, and headed for the fertile coffeehouse circuit, which was popping up around Denver. Lind was putting in long hours, fueled by his own youthful adrenalin and the available recreational drugs of the day. He could often be found at the Analyst coffeehouse, receiving encouragement from proprietor Al Chapman.
After the folk music boom peaked in Denver, Lind relocated to San Francisco and eventually headed south to LA, where the Sunset Strip scene and folk rock had captured the imagination of youth. Instead of being signed to the hot “teen market” labels of Capitol or Columbia, Lind received a contract to record for World Pacific, a subsidiary of a label that would have seemed to have been the more logical choice, Liberty Records (Jan and Dean, Gary Lewis and the Playboys). World Pacific lived up to its name: “World” was represented by the recordings of sitar maestro Ravi Shankar. The “Raga-Rock” movement of the ’60s – best represented by the Byrds’ “Eight Miles High” and “Why” – became all the rage after Byrds members Jim McGuinn and David Crosby became entranced by the exotic sounds of the Shankar LPs. The “Pacific” in the label name alluded to the post-World War II West Coast Jazz phenomenon. The major players of the day (Chet Baker, Art Pepper, Bud Shank) all recorded for World Pacific.
Two substantial men in the musical industry, Lenny Waronker and Jack Nitzsche, took the 23 year-old Lind under their wing. Waronker, who was operating Metric Music Publishing (he would later work for Warner Brothers Records in an executive capacity) offered the contract to Lind. Nitzsche, who died in 2002, wore comfortably the two hats of arranger and producer. In his former duty, Nitzsche created the “wall” for Phil Spector’s famous “wall of sound” recordings, his creative usage of strings raising the standard. For years, the Lind-Nitzsche pairing had been forgotten with the exception of the “Elusive Butterfly” single. A reappraisal of their recordings (two LPs, unreleased material, and a few non-album tracks) occurred in 2007 when England’s Big Beat label released a CD called Bob Lind Elusive Butterfly: The Complete Jack Nitzsche Sessions. It presents a different side to Nitzsche’s musical genius. Instead of the melodrama of “You Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” or the Wagnerian splendor of “And Then He Kissed Me,” Nitzsche’s arrangements were subtle, floating over Lind’s strong vocals like cumulus clouds. It sounded more like the Nitzsche arrangements that were to come (Buffalo Springfield’s “Expecting to Fly”) than his work with Spector.
The two 1966 Lind albums on World Pacific – Don’t Be Concerned and Photographs of Feeling – were recorded so closely together that Lind has told interviewers that they seemed like one continuous session. Nitzsche brought in all the big names from LA’s famed “Wrecking Crew” of session players: keyboardist Leon Russell, drummer Hal Blaine, bassist Carol Kaye, and many others. Their presence is felt on “Mr. Zero,” “Unlock the Door,” “Dale Anne,” and “Remember the Rain.”
In retrospect, San Diego radio listeners probably heard more Lind songs than other markets. Hometown heroes the Cascades, famous for their 1963 chart topper, “Rhythm of the Rain,” recorded two Lind compositions; “Cheryl’s Goin’ Home” and “Truly Julie’s Blues (I’ll be There)” were heard over ’60s AM radio powerhouses KGB and KCBQ. “Cheryl” was a straight-forward narrative about a man having a losing battle with a train whisking his former lover out of his life. “Truly Julie” contained some of Lind’s most enigmatic lyrics, a tale of a young heroine feeling the weight of the world; When all the crippled children you give strength to/Lay their crutches down and walk away/And you realize that all their mothers hate you/I’ll be there to hear the things you say/I’ll be there to hear the things you say.
Two other San Diego bands, Deep Six and the Hard Times, also covered Lind material. The Deep Six’s 1966 album on Liberty featured “Unlock the Door” and “Counting.” Two years later, the Hard Times would feature “Come to Your Window” on their album Blew Mind.
There wouldn’t be another Lind long player until 1971. Since There Were Circles was an album given little support by its label, Capitol, and would vanish into obscurity. Over the decades, it has received great praise from Lind’s fans and copies of the original vinyl have gone for over $200 on Amazon. Produced by Troubadour nightclub owner Doug Weston and arranged by music industry veteran Jimmy Bond, the record embodied the Southern California country rock movement of the ’70s. Lind was backed by ex-Byrd Gene Clark, future Eagle Bernie Leadon, bluegrass legend Doug Dillard, and several other talented musicians. In 2006, RPM Records out of Britain released Since There Were Circles on CD, exposing the under-appreciated gem to a wider audience.
More recently, Lind has focused his energies on being an author. He won the Florida State Screenwriters competition for a script called Refugee. In addition to writing plays and short stories, Lind is earning favorable reviews for his novel, East of the Holyland. It’s the story of a musician who is divided over staying in the Denver folk scene or heading for the “Holyland” aka Los Angeles. Although it is on the surface a fictional work, it is easy for the reader to see beneath the many layers and revisit the youthful aspirations of a young Bob Lind.
Like so many of his fellow ’60s artists, Lind has been discovered – or “rediscovered” by contemporary musicians. John Otway recorded a passionate cover of “Cheryl’s Goin’ Home” and Britpop greats Pulp’s We Have Life CD features an original composition “Bob Lind (The Only Way is Down).” Independent artist Jamie Hoover (the Spongetones) released an EP of four Lind songs called Lind Me Four. That release would result in a meeting and eventual friendship between Hoover and Lind and quality time in the recording studio. In addition to the reissues and his writing projects, Lind recorded a 2006 CD before an audience called Live at the Luna Cafe.
In July 1977, Lind achieved sobriety after years of drug and alcohol abuse and is in his 35th year of staying clean. He is living in Boca Raton, Florida and recent photographs by renowned photographer Henry Diltz showed him looking much younger than many of his peers from the ’60s. Live performance clips from a 2010 documentary, Bob Lind: Perspective, find him in fine voice. He will be standing next to his idol, Judy Collins, when both artists will be inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame later this year. In many ways Lind has come full circle. He agreed to answer some questions for the Troubadour.
SAN DIEGO TROUBADOUR: Hello Bob. Thank you for your time. What were your earliest memories of being drawn to music?
BOB LIND: Hi back atcha, Steve. My birth father was a “radio personality.” Today they call them DJs, but that doesn’t quite catch it. In the early ’40s radio guys didn’t just spin records. They told jokes, waxed philosophical (homespun), and played music. My dad played ukulele and guitar. There was always something with strings on it lying around that a little kid wasn’t supposed to mess with. But I did – every chance I got.
SDT: Who were the artists?
BL: When I was three, four, and five I didn’t like kid records. I liked song records. Tex Ritter, the Sons of the Pioneers, and Gene Autry were the singers I first remember listening to. Much later there were some reviews of my shows from the ’60s in which the critics mentioned Gene Autry as an influence on my vocal style. At some point, age four or five, I discovered a folk singer named Burl Ives among my parents’ records and that clinched it. I knew even then what I wanted to do. Later on, Ives got known for all that lame silliness like “A Little Bitty Tear” and “Holly Jolly Christmas.” But when I first heard him, circa 1946-1947, he had [guts]. I was captivated. He was playing guitar with his fingers. No one I heard was doing that. They all used flat picks. And he was singing mysterious songs about bats with leather wings and cowboys dying in the Texas streets, and a woman named Cora who had a still. I didn’t even know what a still was but it was intriguing and eerie to hear him sing about her, striking those strings with his fingers. I still love those early records.
SDT: Judy Collins has spoken fondly of getting her start in Denver before relocating to Greenwich Village. What was the scene like for you at the Analyst coffeehouse in Denver? The Bohemian vibe of Denver is a recurring theme in Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. It seemed as if you were living out your own Kerouac journey – writing prolifically and sleeping very little.
BL: Those were magic times. I didn’t need sleep. My bloodstream was full of amphetamine and big dreams. By the time the acoustic folk fad hit hard – circa 1963 – Judy Collins had already left Denver. She was a legend by then, so I never knew her personally. Only her records. I write about those times (1963-1964) in my novel East of the Holyland (available from Lulu.com). Everything was music to me in those days. That’s all there was. It’s true I got my start at the Analyst. But it was only one of dozens of Denver coffeehouses that featured acoustic acts around that time. And there were hundreds of folkies – all of us scrambling for work in those tiny venues. We all knew each other. We were a community. We all shared chord patterns and swapped songs and turned each other on to various clubs and bars and coffeehouses where they hired acoustic acts. They paid us absolute crap, $15 a night for three 45-minute sets. But we didn’t care. Let them exploit us, just as long as we got to get up there and sing our hearts out.
I was consumed with writing and playing – alive with it.
My day consisted of getting up about noon, gulping coffee and uppers and sitting at the kitchen table all day writing songs. I would write five, six, seven songs a day. God-awful songs. I saw myself as a brilliant singer-songwriter despite there being no evidence at all to that effect. I didn’t know how bad I was. I thought I was spinning gold in that kitchen.But that’s how you develop as an artist. You’ve got to think you’re way better than you are so that you persist. It’s the persistence that makes you good.
At about seven or eight o’clock, I would take my guitar and walk down to the 17th Street area where the coffeehouses were. For months I did open mics (they called them “Hoots” then). No one would pay me to sing. But they didn’t kick me out either. So I just kept coming back and getting up there and playing until Al Chapman hired me for my first gig at the Analyst. Then I started working other venues like the Green Spider and The Cave and a host of others whose names escape me now. When I wasn’t playing myself, I would go to one of the clubs and hear one of my other folkie friends. And after the shows were over we would all go to someone’s house or apartment and jam till four in the morning. I would stagger home, crash about six and get up at noon the next day and hit it again. And just as I was getting a name around town, just as things were breaking for me, the folk fad dried up. All the coffeehouses started to fold. I went to San Francisco where it was still alive, and when it dried up there, I went to Los Angeles and somehow managed to get signed to World Pacific Records.
One irony now, when I think of Denver, is how I used to learn songs from Judy Collins’ records, playing them over and over and teaching myself her lyrics, chords, and picking patterns. She was a Goddess to me. An icon. And now, later this year, both of us are being inducted into the Colorado Music Hall of Fame on the same day. I can only imagine how it will feel to stand on that stage with her, knowing that someone thinks I’m worthy of that honor. Pretty heady stuff.
SDT: The mainstream press has depicted you as a disappearing act, when in reality you made the transition to becoming a writer of novels, short stories, film scripts, and plays. What do you find to be the difference in the creative process between songwriter and author?
BL: The creative process is the creative process, no matter the medium. It’s a solitary, lonely pursuit and it’s supposed to be – especially writing. All forms of writing have their own unique techniques, their own freedoms and restrictions. The difference is that songs spoil you. You write them in a fairly short amount of time and then you can, very quickly, try them out onstage to see how they work on actual warm-blooded humans. With novels and plays and film scripts you have to press on with no map, no barometer, no indication from anyone else that you’re on the right track. It’s lonely and it’s scary.
Right now I’m working on a play. I have no idea if it’s any good at all. Every day I change my mind. One day it’s moving me and I’m convinced it will move others. The next day, it looks like self-indulgent bull*** and I’m ready to scrap it. But I don’t. The trick with longer works is to press through the not-knowing and not be afraid to find you’ve written a piece of crap. That’s the fear I’ve learned to conquer. Every writer has to conquer it: the fear of writing bad. I know there are writers’ groups, people who get together weekly or whatever and read each other their works in progress and get “feedback” and critiques from each other. I’ve never been able to write that way. The process is way too fragile to allow anyone else to get his/her paws on it. I don’t want feedback or critique. I don’t want to hear anyone’s voice but my own. It could well be that when this play is done, after more than seven months of work, it will be bad. But regardless, I haven’t wasted my time.
SDT: How did you and Danny O’Keefe organize this current tour? Will the program be a songwriter’s swap or will there be separate sets?
BL: No, Danny does his thing and I do mine. We may do a couple duets at the end of the night if we’re in the mood, but it’s basically O’Keefe sings O’Keefe and Lind sings Lind. As to how it came together? My manager, Jill Guerra, is about 99 percent responsible for that. It started out with me sending Danny, whom I’ve never met, an email. I’ve always loved his songs, notably “Magdalene” and “Just Like a Girl Again.” One night I was playing around on YouTube, revisiting some of his songs. Just on a whim I found his website and wrote him what amounts to a fan letter. I told him I appreciated the care he takes with his writing, never settling for a line that “will work okay,” when with a little more patience, he can find the right word. (à la “She talks in splice and splinters, she laughs like breaking glass…stealing all my images till there’s nothing left to say.”) I’ve known enchanting [women] like that and fallen under their power. So I wrote and told him I appreciated his care and honesty. I was delighted to get back an email from him saying he respected my work as well.
It might well have ended there but when I told Jill about it, she said, “You two should tour together. You’re both brilliant songwriters and I know your fan bases probably overlap. People who like you are almost certain to like Danny and vice versa, and fans who will come to hear one of you will be won over by the other.” We had no idea how Danny would feel about it but Jill approached him and happily he loved the idea. So Jill set us these dates in California, Arizona, and Colorado, seven wonderful nights of getting to hear Danny’s music live and up close, and experiencing the joy of playing him mine.
Bob Lind and Danny O’Keefe will perform on Sunday, May 27 at AMSD Concerts in Normal Heights. Visit www.amsdconcerts.com for ticket information.
WHEN THE STORY TOOK A SLIGHT DETOUR
Troubadour writer Steve Thorn sent out the following message to his Facebook friends on April 14th.
The Bob Lind article I am currently writing for the San Diego Troubadour has been flowing over with good karma. This Saturday afternoon, I was distracted by voices (12-20 people?) outside the stately Thorn Manor in Normal Heights. A pounding of my front door; I open and there stands Will Ferrell. He is on a scavenger hunt and asks if he may have three items. I have none of them and apologize for being out of the popular culture spotlight. He then asks what I was doing before opening the door and I explain. When he confessed he didn’t know “Elusive Butterfly” or Bob Lind, I volunteered to sing him the chorus; “Don’t be concerned, it will not harm you…” This was being shot for the www, so I will soon be able to provide proof. In the meantime, stay classy, San Diego!